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The Currency Problem and the Present Financial Situation

The Currency Problem and the Present Financial Situation

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Excerpt from The Currency Problem and the Present Financial Situation: A Series of Addresses Delivered at Columbia University, 1907-1908

The Crisis of 1907 in the Light of History The occasion of the addresses collected in this volume was a desire to contribute to the understanding of the crisis of 1907, and to lay down some principles which might be of service in the reconstruction of our currency system. The first question, however, that will obviously present itself, is as to whether the crisis of 1907 was primarily a financial or an industrial crisis; and it may be well, before taking up the specific problems raised by the addresses, to consider this question a little more closely. From one point of view, indeed, every economic crisis is a financial crisis. For since values are expressed in terms of money, and since the modern business superstructure is erected on the basis of credit, every economic revulsion expresses itself through the medium of a change in prices; and since the bank is the center of credit operations, every crisis inevitably involves a revolution in the conditions of credit. From this point of view, all crises may be declared to be financial crises.

From another standpoint, however, a distinction may be drawn between financial crises proper and commercial or industrial crises in the larger sense. There may be a financial panic or crisis due primarily to temporary and sudden oscillations in the condition of the money market or in the price of securities. Such oscillations, sharp and sudden though they be, may have but little relation, whether of effect or of cause, to the general commercial and industrial interests.

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